Rather than being one large bone, the spine is made up of 24 vertebrae plus the sacrum and the coccyx (tail bone). This allows for a lot of movement. The spine’s curves and intervertebral disks absorb impacts and cushion the blow to the brain of thousands of footsteps, running and jumping. The vertebrae encase and protect the spinal cord. Between each vertebra are openings so that nerves can pass through and connect the spinal cord to the various parts of the body. As we age or as the result of an accident, portions of the spine become less mobile, causing pain, decreased range of motion and impair nerve function. With some areas less mobile other areas make up the difference by becoming too mobile or hypermobile. This exercise, called Stirring the Cauldron is designed to strengthen and awaken the spine.
We start by taking a stance with the feet about one shin distance apart. Point your toes straight forward or a bit toed inward. Bend your knees slightly so that they are over your toes. Then begin to rotate the hips as if you were playing with a hula-hoop. Try to isolate the movement to just the hip area holding the rest of the body still. Move the hips in a circle 9 times in one direction then 9 times in the other. Come back to center. Tuck your tailbone under so that your low back area is flat. Raise your left hip as you lower the right then raise the right and lower the left. Keep your tail tucked and the lower back flat as you swing the hips from side to side 9 times each side for a total of 18.
Now that we have worked the waist area we move up to the abdomen. This is where we really begin to stir the caldron and things get little trickier. Check to see if you still have a proper stance with the feet a shin length apart, toes pointing straight and the knees bent. Hold the hips still as you move your belly in a big circle. Think about moving the belly button around. First suck in the belly button and push back so that the lower spine rounds a little. Then move it to the left. Then forward puffing the belly out. Now to the right and back again. Try to isolate just the abdomen so that the hips and the chest are still. Make sure to keep a good stance the entire time. Circle the spine 9 times one direction then 9 times to the other. Now that we have circled the spine we want to do the side-to-side movement. Shift the belly to the left creating a sideways C curve. Try to hold the chest and hips still so that only the abdominal region moves to the side. Then shift to the right so that the spine curves in the other direction. Move side to side 9 times each side for a total of 18.
Next we move up to the chest. Check your stance. Holding the hips abdomen and the shoulders still begin circling the chest in one direction. Circle 9 times and then go the other direction 9 times. Again trying to isolate the movement to the chest and sternum. After circling then do the side-to-side movement. Always isolating the movement to just the chest and trying to keep the head and shoulders as still as possible.
What we have done here is to mobilize the spinal segments, massaged the internal organs and gained new control and awareness. Over time you will notice that you have less back pain or that your constant digestive problems go away, or maybe your breathing becomes easier. The benefits from this simple exercise are numerous. Go slowly and carefully. Stretch your limits but don’t over do it. These are major centers for movement and energy in the body. As your awareness grows you can try isolating more than just these three regions and work toward isolating each vertebrae. This is the first step in Awakening the Dragon (spine).